We bring in the house plants Sept. 30.
Sometimes things come up, and we're a day or so late.
It may be the dogs rather lost control and the rugs had to go to the laundry, after all. (Usually when you think you're going to save $300 this year it turns out you were wrong).
The only way the dining room rug gets out is by moving the sideboards, which are solid with stuff, so the drawers have to come out and sit on the living room sofa, then the sideboards and serving table come out (the leg of the table is tricky, and since the table top is green stone you don't want to get too frisky with it), then the main table can be moved to the side, but you want to watch out for the ceiling light which is just the right height to conk your head with a large crystal ball when you move the dining table. And the chairs have to go, naturally, and the weighty wooden box that holds the tree loppers and electric drill -- a box that is supposed to be virtually invisible beneath a sideboard, and Miss Willie C.'s crystal epergne that she rescued from a peddler's cart in Brussels (odd, since it is Irish) -- and indeed several other things have to be handled with kid gloves.
Then you roll up the rug. Then you move everything back, and put all the living room stuff in the dining room. Everything that will temporarily fit. Which does not include a 10-ton desk or the sofa that would double for a tank. Then you roll up the living room rug. You then phone the cleaners (your wife must do this, since women can sound more pitiable on the phone) to insist three men pick up the rugs. Otherwise they send two, and you get pressed into service yourself, since the job takes three.
At this point the weather is turning coolish or even nippy at night. You do not want the 37 quite large plants in heavy pots to come in, however, until the rugs get back, because the prospect of moving not only all the furniture but the 37 pots as well is too much to contemplate.
When the rugs get back, assuming they do, the first thing is to get them all unrolled and the furniture back on top of them, then the plants come in to stand all over the place, with a solid phalanx sitting on top of the table that runs along behind the sofa. They do not look good there, and they annoy people who sit on the sofa and who are not used to cycads and palms hanging down around their ears as they sit. The best way to handle this embarrassment is to ignore it. When guests brush away foliage every few minutes, you give no sign of being aware they feel trapped in a jungle. You get a look on your face (it can certainly be learned; we learned it) that says everybody's sofa is overhung with leaves.
The orchids do not come in until the temperature reaches 39 degrees -- that is good for cymbidiums, they say. On the other hand if it gets cold suddenly and falls to 32, it will take two years to nurse the orchids back to health again. We know precisely how long it takes.
Last year the huge agave had pups -- five -- and split its tub, which means there are now six agaves instead of one to be thought of. These go well by the fireplace, where their sharp prickles discourage any listless lounging about by the fire. If (as we do) you carefully cut the vicious points off the ends of the leaves, guests will not actually bleed when stuck. Only the person who sits in a particular chair gets stabbed, bluntly, and if it's a woman the worse that happens (and always happens) is her stockings get runs.
Outdoors the big Chinese jar holds the striped sweet flag all summer, but now the sweet flag comes out and rests on the bottom of the big pool, and the jar is emptied of water and is lugged through the kitchen to the dining room. Then the monster rubber plant comes in from another direction and the rubber tree pot goes into the Chinese jar, but you don't want to get into this operation until the rugs are down and the furniture is back in place, because otherwise your wife will scream and say words you didn't know were in her vocabulary.
The fiddle-leaf fig this year cannot sit near the air conditioner because it has got too tall, and the dracaena (raised from a wee thing in the dime store) can no longer be squeezed in by the pier mirror without blocking the door.
All these things will fit. They always do. But of course you can't begin till the rugs get back. They will return at 4 p.m. the day the temperature prepares to drop to 30. This means everything will be done by flashlight within three hours, after you are properly exhausted from moving the furniture to get the rugs down. The dogs will be shut in a room upstairs, and somebody will go up to the bathroom and down they will charge while you are moving something fragile, with helpful warnings not to drop it, it was Edna's and is priceless. The dogs are put out where they stay till you go out to bring in the big plants, when you will find them as you lug the largest pot up to the kitchen door. What piteous screams, but it was only the tail, for gosh sake.
But if you would look where you were going -- and just how do I do that with this blankety eight-foot rubber tree in my arms?
By 10 p.m. everything will be in. A little frost-nipped, possibly. No matter. Everything will protest by dropping leaves steadily until spring, when everything will be nearly dead. Then outdoors with everything, where everything will not only recover but will be much larger for coming indoors next year. And you have forgot the aloe, of course, which was hard to see down there by the willow tree and now it's turned red from the cold. But will be all right by May.
This is how you bring the house plants in. Always great fun.